Government

Professor Cheryl Welch, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The concentration in Government introduces students to the discipline of political science: the study of power in all of its many forms and consequences. Aiming both to prepare students to lead engaged civic lives and to introduce them to the ways in which political scientists explain and analyze the social and political world around us, the concentration has four curricular goals:

Our first goal is to make all students aware and critical of their unexamined assumptions about politics.. Learning to think independently and with some critical distance, to analyze arguments—theoretical, empirical and rhetorical—to weigh alternatives, to write cogently, and to speak persuasively are essential skills for responsible global citizenship as well as professional careers. Government 97 (sophomore tutorial) begins the process by asking students to consider several urgent issues that face us today through the critical lens of political science. For example, how do political scientists think about the ethical, empirical, and conceptual dimensions of growing economic inequality in advanced democracies? Or about the threats associated with climate change? After engaging with such important discussions of real-world issues, students in Gov 97 then try their own hands at independent research and analysis.

To achieve breadth in the discipline of political science is our second aim. Political science covers many different subjects, including the philosophy and ethics of exercising power and the history of political ideas (political theory); the operation of politics in the United States (American politics); the diversity of political regimes, institutions, and behaviors in the contemporary world and the significance of these divergences (comparative politics); and, finally, the interaction among international actors, the causes of war and peace, and the roots of global poverty and prosperity (international relations). Political scientists work in and across these disciplinary subfields using a large and varied tool kit: qualitative methods such as historical and archival research, fieldwork, interviews, and textual analysis; and various quantitative approaches including statistical analysis, formal modeling and experiments. Our goal is to assure that concentrators grasp the main approaches and topics in the discipline by introducing the breadth of political science in Government 97 (sophomore tutorial), by requiring Gov 50 (a basic literacy course in approaches to political science research), and by requiring concentrators to take at least one course in each of the traditional subfields described above.

Third, we encourage students to chart a distinctive path through political science. We offer each student the possibility of satisfying his or her particular intellectual bent and curiosity through a cluster of electives and at least one required seminar. Each student has the freedom to choose his or her particular path through the diverse Government curriculum, but we want to assure that choices are thoughtful and informed. Therefore students begin to work on a particular plan to navigate the rich resources in the department in sophomore spring in consultation with their sophomore tutor and concentration adviser. During the next four semesters students refine this plan with the help of advisers and faculty. Often students cluster electives either in a subfield, a geographical area, or a particular methodological approach, and enroll in a seminar that allows them to think about framing a research question using their chosen focus.

Finally, we encourage students to produce as well as consume political science research. All concentrators are required to take at least one seminar, in which they produce a research paper or other project under the guidance of teaching faculty. They are also welcome to fulfill one elective requirement through Gov 92r: Faculty Research Assistantship for Credit and/or through one or more of our research practice courses: Government 61 (Research Practice in Quantitative Methods), Government 62 (Research Practice in Qualitative Methods), or Government 63 (Topics and Resources in Political Theory). Those who choose the honors track (which requires a thesis) are normally expected to take one of the research practice courses. Honors concentrators often use multiple seminars to explore possible research directions for the senior thesis, a substantial work of independent scholarship that serves as the capstone of their experience in Government.

Government as a Secondary Field

Many students pursue a secondary field in Government, which requires five courses, with no more than two at the foundational level (e.g., Gov 10, 20, 30 or 40). For examples of  how students have used secondary fields in government, please consult the Secondary Field page on our website.

Government as Part of a Joint Concentration

Government offers a few students the possibility of a joint concentration, with Government as either the primary or allied concentration. Petitions for joint concentrations are entertained twice a year: once in September and once in February. For more about this option, see the Joint Concentration page on our website, and note the special requirements for joint concentrators listed below.

 

 

REQUIREMENTS

For students in the class of 2015 and beyond.

Other students should refer to the Fields of Concentration from the year in which they declared their concentration.

Basic Requirements: 10 courses (40 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Field Requirements: One course in each of the four subfields. These need not be foundational courses. The four subfields are:
        1. Political Theory (foundational course: Government 10).
        2. Comparative Government (foundational course: Government 20).
        3. American Government (foundational course: Government 30).
        4. International Relations (foundational course: Government 40).
    2. Government 50: Introduction to Political Science Research Methods. Statistics 100 or 104 may be substituted for Government 50. If a Statistics course is substituted, one more Government elective is required.
    3. Government Electives: Three additional courses in government, four if substituting Statistics 100 or 104 for Government 50. Up to two may be from a list of pre-approved Harvard Kennedy School courses.
    4. Tutorial: Government 97: Sophomore Tutorial. Letter-graded.
    5. Seminar: One Undergraduate Seminar (Government 94).
  2. Thesis: Not required.
  3. General Examination: Not required.
  4. Other information:
    1. Pass/Fail: Pass/Fail: Only one Government elective may be taken Pass/Fail. All other courses counted for concentration requirements must be letter-graded.
    2. Government 50 and Statistics: Students should take either Government 50 or a Statistics course to fulfill the Research Methods requirement. If a student takes both courses, both courses will count into the student’s concentration GPA, and the Statistics course cannot count as one of the three required Government electives.
    3. Advanced Standing: Advanced Standing students may enroll in Government 97: Sophomore Tutorial in the spring term of their first year.
    4. The only courses that may count for subfield credit are those in the Government section in the course search in courses.my.harvard.edu and cross-listed courses taught by a Government Department faculty member.

Requirements for Honors Eligibility: 13 courses (52 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Field Requirements: One course in each of the four subfields (same as Basic Requirements).
    2. Government 50: Introduction to Political Science Research Methods. Statistics 100 or 104 may be substituted for Government 50. If a Statistics course is substituted, one more Government elective is required (same as Basic Requirements).
    3. Electives: Three additional courses in government, four if substituting Statistics 100 or 104 for Government 50. Up to two may be from a list of pre-approved Harvard Kennedy School courses (same as Basic Requirements).
    4. Tutorials:
        1. Sophomore year: Government 97. Letter-graded.
        2. Senior year: Government 99r (two terms), devoted to the writing of a thesis. Graded SAT/UNS. Students should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information.
    5. Seminars: A research practice course (Government 61, 62, or 63) and at least one Government 94 Undergraduate Seminar (Students typically take two or more Government 94s). Students may substitute a Government 94 seminar for a research practice course upon petition to the DUS.
  2. Thesis: Required of all candidates for honors. A student may not earn credit for the second semester of 99r without submitting a completed thesis. To earn credit for the first semester of 99r, a student must submit at least thirty pages of written work that is acceptable to the thesis adviser and must be enrolled and actively participate in the senior thesis workshop. 
  3. General Examination: A written general examination is not required. An oral examination is required under certain circumstances.
  4. Other information:
    1. Pass/Fail: Only one Government elective may be taken Pass/Fail. All other courses counted for concentration requirements (except Gov 99) must be letter-graded.
    2. Government 50 and Statistics: Students should take either Government 50 or a Statistics course to fulfill the Research Methods requirement. If a student takes both courses, both courses will count into the student’s concentration GPA, and the Statistics course cannot count as one of the three required Government electives.
    3. Advanced Standing: Same as Basic Requirements.
    4. The only courses that may count for subfield credit are those in the Government section of Courses of Instruction and cross-listed courses taught by a Government Department faculty member.

Joint Concentration
Government as the Primary Field: 17 courses (68 credits) total
(11 courses in Government—44 credits)

  1. Required courses:
    1. Government Field Requirements: one course in each of the four subfields (same as Basic Requirements).
    2. Tutorials:
        1. Sophomore year: Government 97. Letter-graded.
        2. Senior year: Government 99r (two terms), devoted to the writing of a thesis. Graded SAT/UNS. Students should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information.
    3. Government 50: Introduction to Political Science Research Methods. Statistics 100 or 104 may be substituted for Government 50.
    4. Electives: one additional course in Government.
    5. Seminars: Two Undergraduate Seminars (Government 94). Students may substitute one Research Practice course (Government 61, 62, or 63) for one of the required seminars. On petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, one seminar may be from the allied field.
  2. Thesis: Required.
  3. General Examination: A written general examination is not required. An oral examination is required under certain circumstances.
  4. Other information:
    1. Petitions: Properly qualified candidates for honors interested in pursuing a joint concentration must petition the Faculty Concentration Committee for approval, even if they do not intend Government to be their primary field. Further details are available at the Government Undergraduate Program Office and on the department’s website.

Government as the Allied Field: 6 courses (24 credits) in Government

  1. Required courses:
    1. Government Field Requirements: two courses in each of two of the four subfields listed under Basic Requirements.
    2. Government 50: Introduction to Political Research Methods. Statistics 100 or 104 may be substituted for Government 50.
    3. Tutorial: Government 97: Sophomore Tutorial. Letter-graded.
  2. Thesis: Required.
  3. General Examination: A written general examination is not required. An oral examination is required under certain circumstances.
  4. Other information:
    1. Petitions: Properly qualified candidates for honors interested in pursuing a joint concentration must petition the Faculty Concentration Committee for approval, even if they do not intend Government to be their primary field. Further details are available at the Government Undergraduate Program Office and on the department’s website.

STUDY ABROAD

The Government department encourages study abroad for a term, and it is also possible to study abroad for an entire academic year. Students taking study abroad most often go during their junior year, and remain in residence for sophomore year and for senior year, if writing a thesis. Many students use a term abroad to find a thesis topic and to conduct research. The Government department is very flexible in granting credit towards the concentration requirements for political science courses taken elsewhere, as long as they are equivalent to courses offered at Harvard. Students must receive a grade of B– (or equivalent) or higher in order to receive final approval for courses taken abroad.

ADVISING

For information and advice about the Government concentration, students are encouraged to meet with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and with the concentration advisers in the Houses. Please consult the department’s website for a listing of advisers and office hours.

For up-to-date information on advising in Government, please see the Advising Programs Office website.

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE

For further information concerning concentration in Government, students should visit the Government Undergraduate Program Office (617-495-3249). The office, located at CGIS Knafel Building, room K151, 1737 Cambridge Street, is open Monday through Friday, 9:30–5:30. Additional information is also available on the department’s website.

ENROLLMENT STATISTICS
Number of Concentrators as of December

Concentrators 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Government 477 467 475 473 438 468 378 347 333
Government + another field 8 1 3 8 8 7 2 3 12
Another field + Government 3 0 3 5 2 9 2 4 16